I probably use at least one of these items every day and it makes my life so much easier. These tools make me look totally competent and, until now, only I knew how easy it was.
1. Le Creuset 5 1/2 Quart Round French Oven
3. Rimmed Baking Sheets
This might seem like a no-brainer, but you can make everything that you put in the oven on a rimmed baking sheet. Normal cookie sheets are totally flat, without edges, which is great for cookies, but if you are going to invest in only one sheet for the oven, make it a rimmed baking sheet (one big and one small). I line mine with foil and roast whole chickens and chicken thighs or wings, whole pork loans or chops, whole fish fillets, any anything else you can think of. I ALSO line them with a baking sheet and make my cookies on here. One stop shop. The little edge gives you that added security that you aren't going to have an accident and spill gunk all over your oven so that you either have to clean it up for hours or smell last week's dinner every time you turn on the oven. Enough said.
I love to sear meat on the stovetop and then finish it in the oven. There is no more versatile tool for this than the cast iron skillet. They are cheap, durable and endlessly reliable. High praise indeed. They are a bit finicky about being washed, so you want to hand wash it and dry it immediately to avoid rust, but it is well worth it. I often pass by my much more expensive frying pans in favor of this beauty. Get one that is a decent size, but not fireside gigantic. You want to be able to cook a decent meal for 4 in this sucker and it will be worth it because everything you make in here will be leftovers worthy.
A microplane is what I think Alton Brown would call a "multitasker." Whatever. I'll buy single-use tools if I want thank-you-very-much, Alton. This tool, however, is certainly not a one trick pony. I zest any and every citrus fruit with thing along with perfectly grating hard cheeses, nutmeg or cinnamon. However, the best of all is for grating garlic. I use the microplane and it takes 2 seconds to get the most beautiful garlic paste imaginable. I slather it all over garlic bread or use it to make rubs for meat. This really is a great tool to have in your arsenal and this is another tool that you can find in any kitchen stores or Target. The best part is that a decent one will really only run you about $10.
6. Magic BulletThis may seem really crazy, but I use this thing all the time. I made soup (who said you couldn't blend things in batches of 2 or 3?!?!), pastes and rubs for slathering on meats before I grill or broil, and I make quick and easy salad dressings in this thing. I am ashamed to say this, but I have not one, but two food processors (medium and large) and a blender. I honestly use the magic bullet 50x more than I use those bigger, more expensive pieces of equipment because the bullet is so fast to get ready and cleans up so much faster in the dishwasher. Since I use it so often, I probably buy a new one (about $20) every 12-18 months. I'm hooked.
I know it probably seems pretty ridiculous to list this as a "tool" that you should run out and buy, but I probably have about 20 fancy spatulas, whisks, and mixing gadgets. The tool I use most for both making savory and sweet things is my trusty only wooden spoon. I do have about 3 of them and I find that I always go back to it for maximum efficiency while I am cooking. I do generally make a big mess in the kitchen and I generate 5 times as many dishes as I should while cooking, but there is just something about a good wooden spoon that keeps me coming back for more.